Friday, August 12, 2011

The Long Gestating Mid-Summer Book Report - (I Read Something - Aug 12, 2011)

I've been reading a lot, just not writing. It gets hot in the summer and I don't like typing outside.

Everyone loves the Facebook but why is no one on Goodreads? Is it because Goodreads involves actually reading books? Sharing and talking about books is the cornerstone of intelligence gathering. This has been replaced by listening to music while texting during movies and sharing photos of yourself. Bet Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson didn't while chat listening to OK Computer & watching The Wall. Although they may have been smoking some skanky stuff.

If they were around today, they might be talking about something interesting tracts like the two I just read, Jon Ronson's The Psychopath Test and Jonah Keri's The Extra 2%, especially if they enjoyed madness and baseball like they would now.

The Pshychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Jon Ronson is known for his interestingly quirky investigations of a wide array of topics, most notably the army's employing of psychics in The Men Who Stare at Goats (which was turned into one of the worst films in history). This book investigates the basis and historical of clinical psychosis simultaneously becoming obsessed with the
PCL-R Hare Test Checklist that usually considered the best way to decipher if someone is a severe, dangerous psychopath. In it, he interviews serial murderers, rapists, war criminals, and company CEOs to try to dig for a common thread for diagnosing psychosis through his unique self-doubting, self-deprecating investigational style.

The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First by Jonah Keri

Jonah Keri from ESPN and Baseball Prospectus got excellent insight on the brief but under-reported tumultuous history of the previously perpetual cellar dwellers Tampa Bay Rays and how a new management team came in with advanced analytic methods.

Anyone would see the repeated heartbreak of how Tampa Bay was the ultimate threat for many owners when negotiating for a new stadium. The best story comes at a deadline deal with the Chicago White Sox, a historic team that might shock you how close they were to actually leaving Chicago. With minute to go before a midnight deadline for striking a deal, "With midnight about to strike, (Governor)Thompson was still six votes short. The governor had only one move left. He stopped the clock." It's as genius as it is ludicrous. Since the clock didn't strike midnight, the vote didn't have to take place until he got the votes. But this is just one in a long line of dashed dreams before they got the expansion Rays.

But the real gold in this quick read is cataloging the idiosyncrasies of the penny-pinching, Micromanager Extraordinaire and original owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Vincent Naimoli (that's before they lost the "Devil") who made his money as a company turnaround specialist. Here's a few of my favorite stories quoted from the book:

  • "He insisted on reading and signing off on the smallest documents. Naimoli wouldn't buy Internet access and by extension wouldn't arrange for email for Devil Rays employees." (Page 39)
  • ...Naimoli forced team employees to buy specially designed Rays license plates if they wanted to park in Tropicana Field's empty main parking lot on workdays...or else be forced to park much farther out and walk a quarter-mile to their offices. This was in stark contrast to his successor Stuart Sternberg, who offered two years of free parking to everyone at Tropicana Field as a token of goodwill... ( 41)
  • In reference to his tyrant nature on bringing in outside food in the land of outside food AKA retiree-filled Florida "...ushers were the first line of defense against the scourge of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If they failed to detect the contraband, though, the Devil Rays had a backup plan: Detective Naimoli. The owner sat in he stands for most games, bringing him closer to the action, and to the fans. If he spotted a fan eating outside food, he's walk over and ask where he entered the stadium. He would then calm fund out who was manning that entrance, and have that person fired on the spot...Naimoli's threats turned the D-Rays' stadium crew into unflinching supercops of snack prevention. A group of seniors hopped a bus to one game during that period. One couple within the group approached the stadium entrance, the wife in a wheelchair. Security found a bag of cashews on her and yanked them away. The elderly lady explained that she was diabetic and needed the nuts for her diet.... (end of the story: she and her husband went back and sat on the bus for the entire game) (43)
  • He frequented the press box, presumably on pizza patrol. He'd sometimes fly on the team plane and even ride the team bus, especially when the D-Rays were in New York. That way he could hitch a postgame life from the stadium to his NYC apartment - which was completely out of the way for everyone else - rather than springing for cab fare.
There is the humor along with high quality access/insight into the unique young minds that turned around this mess into a small market marvel under the guise of the young gun GM Andrew Friedman.

Also Read

Musician/ Writer/Actor Steve Earle's debut novel I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive has a lapsed-doctor-cum-heroin-junkie protagonist named Doc who is haunted by the ghost of Hank Williams. Doc is the go-to-guy for under the table medical issues for prostitutes, illegals and criminals for sex-trade illnesses, gunshot wounds, and pregnancy terminations around San Antonio in the late sixties. Working out of a rundown motel, Doc's inner circle and encounters form an interesting perspective of unique issues in an important time in US history. An interesting, spanglish tale of addiction, redemption, well told with Earle's gritty realistic yet ethereal writing style.

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